The Alarmin Properties of DNA and DNA-associated Nuclear Proteins.

Journal Article (Journal Article;Review)

PURPOSE: The communication of cell injury and death is a critical element in host defense. Although immune cells can serve this function by elaborating cytokines and chemokines, somatic cells can repurpose nuclear macromolecules to function as damage-associated molecular patterns (DAMPs) or alarmins to exert similar activity. Among these molecules, DNA, high-mobility group box-1, and histone proteins can all act as DAMPs once they are in an extracellular location. This review describes current information on the role of the nuclear DAMPs, their translocation to the outside of cells, and pathways of activation after uptake into the inside of immune cells. METHODS: MEDLINE and PubMed databases were searched for citations (1990-2016) in English related to the following terms: DAMPs, high-mobility group box-1, DNA, histones, cell death, danger, and immune activation. Selected articles with the most relevant studies were included for a more detailed consideration. FINDINGS: Although nuclear molecules have important structural and genetic regulatory roles inside the cell nucleus, when released into the extracellular space during cell death, these molecules can acquire immune activity and serve as alarmins or DAMPs. Although apoptosis is generally considered the source of extracellular nuclear material, other cell death pathways such as necroptosis, NETosis, and pyroptosis can contribute to the release of nuclear molecules. Importantly, the release of nuclear DAMPs occurs with both soluble and particulate forms of these molecules. The activity of nuclear molecules may depend on posttranslational modifications, redox changes, and the binding of other molecules. Once in an extracellular location, nuclear DAMPs can engage the same pattern recognition receptors as do pathogen-associated molecular patterns. These interactions can activate immune cells and lead to cytokine and chemokine production. Among these receptors, internal receptors for DNA are key to the response to this molecule; the likely function of these internal sensors is the recognition of DNA from intracellular infection by bacteria or viruses. Activation of these receptors requires translocation of extracellular DNA into specialized compartments. In addition to nuclear DNA, mitochondrial DNA can also serve as a DAMP. IMPLICATIONS: The communication of cell injury and death is a critical element in host defense and involves the repurposing of nuclear molecules as immune triggers. As such, the presence of extracellular nuclear material can serve as novel biomarkers for conditions involving cell injury and death. Targeting of these molecules may also represent an important new approach to therapy.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Magna, M; Pisetsky, DS

Published Date

  • May 2016

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 38 / 5

Start / End Page

  • 1029 - 1041

PubMed ID

  • 27021604

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1879-114X

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1016/j.clinthera.2016.02.029


  • eng

Conference Location

  • United States